PHILADELPHIA – For Ashwin Chaudhary, it was somewhere between the time he was stuffed into a cramped, freezing room in the middle of nowhere and when his debit card was compromised that he realized this would be no ordinary vacation.
But through all of the obstacles he and his longtime pal and fellow Philadelphia-area native Jon Korn encountered during their voyage to South Africa in the summer of 2010, they made sure to do one thing: Keep the cameras rolling.
What emerged was a compelling documentary that chronicles the United States national team in their memorable World Cup run, the most diehard American supporters who made the 8,000-mile trip, and the overjoyed South Africans proud to host an event of this magnitude after all their country had been through.
The film, entitled Laduma, has already been screened in New York and Philadelphia to favorable responses and will come to Kansas City on April 1, in conjunction with the American Outlaws and KC Cauldron. The Philly screening was also helped out by a Major League Soccer fan base – the Union’s Sons of Ben raised money for their Help Kick Hunger campaign through ticket sales – and the hope for Chaudhary and Korn is that they can kick off a national screening tour through at least 10 other MLS cities.
After all they went through to get it made, they just want the film to be seen by soccer fans throughout the country.
“It was basically two filmmakers going over there and just kind of winging it,” Chaudhary said. “I think that’s the spirit of the film.”
“Every day was an adventure there,” added Korn, “We were really flying by the seat of our pants.”
That’s not to say the film isn’t well done. Despite not having any kind of real budget and unable to spend enough to get actual game footage, the young filmmakers used photos and integrated effects to simulate game action. And after returning home, they scored interviews with ESPN's Alexi Lalas and Bob Ley and Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl to give the film more beef.
But Laduma was never really about the games themselves. Instead, the richest moments probably came in the interviews with the South Africans – from the overzealous young fan that declared, “Vuvuzelas are the best thing ever,” to the old woman who worked in an overcrowded orphanage.
“When we got off the plane, our goal was to document the American experience over there,” Korn said. “And we were just taken in by the South Africans, who were such great ambassadors. It was so infectious to be around them. No matter what country you were cheering for, you were cheering for South Africa when they were playing. It was something that really transcended the tournament.”
For Chaudhary and Korn, the World Cup has always been something fascinating. The summer after graduating from Penncrest High in suburban Philadelphia – where they teamed up to do the morning announcements, with Korn working as the lead anchor and Chaudhary the guy who read the sports scores – they remember “running around and being idiots” after Clint Mathis’ goal against South Korea at the 2002 World Cup.
After embracing the 2006 World Cup with just as much passion, both began to develop a deeper affinity for both soccer and video production, which eventually led to them starting a project called One Goal in 2009 and following around American soccer supporters during World Cup qualifying.
By the time the World Cup rolled around, they realized they had to follow through and make the plunge, even if it meant putting their full-time jobs in New York on hold. Korn actually had to quit his job and later maxed out his bank account, essentially returning from South Africa unemployed and broke.
While in South Africa, they were able to make ends meet by shooting and producing some videos for Sports Illustrated. But just doing that even caused some issues.
“Everything was more difficult than we anticipated, from finding Internet access to upload content to even just staying warm where we were staying,” Korn said. “And we were staying in the suburbs of Johannesburg, so it was a challenge to get anywhere. The shooting schedule we had going into it, we pretty much had to throw out the window when we get there.”
And yet, even despite all of the struggles, it was something they would definitely do again. If you watch their film, you’ll understand why.
“It was one of those moments where we could either jump or stand where we are,” Korn said. “Ashwin and I convinced each other we should jump. And it’s certainly a decision I’ll be proud of for the rest of my life.”
For more information on the film, visit Laduma-Film.com
E-mail Dave Zeitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org